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Woman tries to identify the ringing, whooshing sound only she can hear.

A buzzing and ringing sound is what the majority of individuals hear when they suffer from tinnitus. But that description, though helpful, is woefully inadequate. Tinnitus doesn’t always manifest in one of those two ways. Actually, a wide range of sounds can be heard due to this condition. And that’s a substantial fact.

Because, as useful as that “buzzing and ringing” shorthand might be, such a limited description could make it difficult for some people to recognize their tinnitus symptoms. If Barb from down the road hears only crashing or whooshing in her ears, it might not even occur to her that tinnitus is to blame. So everyone, including Barb, will profit from having a stronger idea of what tinnitus can sound like.

Tinnitus Might Cause You to Hear These Sounds

Tinnitus is, in general, the sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is called objective tinnitus). And in other situations, it can be phantom noises in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t actually exist and can’t be heard by others – that’s called subjective tinnitus). The form of tinnitus you’re dealing with will probably (but not always) have an impact on the noise you hear. And there are a lot of conceivable sounds you could hear:

  • Static: The sound of static is another kind of tinnitus noise. Some people hear a high intensity static and some hear a low intensity static.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing sound. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or a variety of other insects.
  • Roaring: The sound of roaring ocean waves is another prevalent tinnitus sound. It might sound calming at first, but the reality is that the sound is much more overpowering than the gently rolling waves you may imagine.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor inside of your vacuum has a unique sound. Tinnitus flare-up’s, for some people, manifest this exact sound.
  • Whooshing: Some people hear a whooshing noise triggered by blood circulation in and around the ears which is a form of “objective tinnitus”. With this form of tinnitus, you’re basically hearing your own heartbeat.
  • High-pitch whistle: You know that sound your tea kettle makes when it starts boiling? Sometimes, tinnitus can cause you to hear that particular high-pitched squeal. Needless to say, this one can be quite annoying.
  • Screeching: You know that sound of grinding metal? Maybe you hear it when someone who lives near you is working on a building project in their garage. But it’s the type of sound that often comes up when someone is suffering from tinnitus.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most common of the tinnitus sounds. Frequently, this is a high pitched whine or ring. Sometimes, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they contemplate tinnitus.

A person who has tinnitus may hear lots of possible noises and this list is hardly exhaustive.

Over Time Tinnitus Sounds Can Change

Someone with tinnitus can also hear more than one noise. Brandon, for instance, spent the majority of last week hearing a ringing sound. He met up with friends at a loud restaurant last night and now he’s hearing a loud static sound. Tinnitus sounds can and do change, sometimes regularly.

It’s not well known why this happens (mostly because the causes of tinnitus aren’t always well known).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are typically two possible strategies to managing tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain understand how to dismiss the sound or masking the sound. Whatever your tinnitus sounds may be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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